The Los Angeles Galaxy's dangerous tandem of Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle are on the campus of Princeton University, training with Bob Bradley's USA Men's National Team as they prepare for a couple of friendlies with the Czechs and the Turks prior to the trip to South Africa.
As for the rest of Bruce Arena's club, Saturday's dismal scoreless draw with Toronto FC begs the question for the league leaders of Major League Soccer: Just who will fill those big shoes as they tangle with FC Dallas on Thursday at Frisco's very own Pizza Hut Park?
“We didn’t spend a whole lot of energy worrying about that,” Arena said during practice at the Home Depot center, “We know who our team is.”
That team, of course, is the Galaxy's depth.
“We’ve had about seven or eight injuries over the last four weeks so our choices have been somewhat limited, but in the next week or two we’re going to return a number of players,” Arena added, “So there’s going to be a lot of options to fill those spots.”
Among those players have been injured include Leonardo, Dema Kovalenko, Sean Franklin and Eddie Lewis.
“We’re losing two good players, but we’ve lost players all year,” Dunivant said during training, "[But] we have a deep team and guys are going to have step up.”
Indeed. Aside from Donovan and Buddle, other potential scoring threats loom in Omar Gonzalez, A.J. de LA Garza, Alan Gordon and Todd Dunivant.
Arena determined that the bid void was not in midfield or the attack, but the defense.
“Bryan (Jordan) did a very good job over these last three games. Chris Klein is obviously an experienced player [at right back],” Arena said, “We’re going to be returning (Sean) Franklin and Leonardo and (AJ) De La Garza very shortly so that will help us in that position."
"(Mike) Magee is back, (Clint) Mathis is back, Eddie Lewis will be back so that’s certainly going to help up us.”
And they will need all the help they can get. The taste of last year's 6-3 annihilation is still fresh in a number of players' minds, like goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
"I had that part of my memory erased," he said with a grin, "I moved on as soon as that game was over. In anything you do, you have setbacks and that was a major setback for the team. But I think we reacted pretty well and went all the way to the (MLS Cup) final.
That was last season."
"I don't know why anyone would waste any time thinking about a game last year," Arena said, "It's really not relevant to anything at this point in time."
No, Bruce, it isn't. But this is: Schellas Hyndman's FC Dallas currently sit 12 points behind the Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference with a 2-1-5 record (11 points). In the overall standings, the Hoops sit one point outside of the eight spot, currently occupied by the Seattle Sounders FC (3-3-3, 12 points)
Forward Jeff Cunningham leads FCD with four goals, while David Ferreira has been a solid facilitator for the Hoops attack with three assists this year. Dax McCarty, Heath Pearce and Atiba Harris are also dangerous with the ball.
Harris has two goals in eight matches for the Hoops. McCarty and Pearce each have two assists, while McCarty has also chipped in with a goal in their 2010 campaign.
FC Dallas has only suffered one defeat, a 2-1 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls, but it hasn't been in on the win column on a consistent basis, managing just two wins in their last five matches since their setback in April at the Red Bull Arena.
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, a former member of the Galaxy, has a 0.75 goals against average, to go with 15 saves. He forms a stopping tandem with Dario Sala, who has also started and played in four matches like Hartman, and has amassed a 1.50 GAA so go with 10 saves.
It has been part of the Galaxy's contingency plan: To find someone to cover for the Buddlevan Connection. FC Dallas is going to make it very tough for LA to grab three points. But the G's will have what it takes to finish, something that has not happened against Toronto FC.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, FC Dallas 1
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT, but will be delayed to 9:00 p.m. PT on Fox Sports West. A live play-by-play will be provided on the View and on Bleacher Report.
INS AND OUTS
On the next Dr. Landon...
Tuesday afternoon in Old Nassau saw Landon Donovan fire off questions on his thoughts ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“I’m more real than I was, I’m more centered,” Donovan said, “I’m in a much better place than I was in the past.
“When you first come on the scene, it’s exciting in a way that you’re just genuinely happy to be there. Then I went through a period where there was a lot of attention and with that came pressure and a lot of soccer, and I got to the point where it just wore me down."
“And I thought to myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s just too much. Then you hope you get to a place where you find your way again and you find what this really means to you.”
Another big question for Donovan involved family. In 2006, Donovan married actress Bianca Kajlich. Nearly four years late, they parted.
"[She] has taught me more about myself than I’ve ever known and continues to do that," Donovan said, "Bianca is an actress, and if any of you know what that life is like, it can be miserable at times and she has fought very hard for everything she’s gotten."
"I, on the other hand, have been blessed and fortunate with the ability and the opportunities I’ve been given. When you get that perspective and realize that you can’t take things for granted, it hits you hard when it comes from your wife and your best friend. That’s been a really big part of this whole process."
“I think every comment I get when I would tell people I’m going through a divorce was that, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.' It’s not always the case that it has to be sorry. Sometimes you learn more from those moments than anything. For me, that was certainly the case. It doesn’t have to be ugly or nasty. It can be helpful and you can grow from it.”
Knowing that the mood in the room had turned into that of a funeral, Donovan changed the tempo in predictable fashion.
“Coaches have certainly helped, family, therapy and spending a lot of time looking at myself in an honest way,” Donovan added. “When you combine all that you don’t have much choice but to learn about yourself whether you like it or not.”
Sorry Dr. Phil, but Dr. Landon Donovan here owns you in terms of giving expert advice. Nice going, you dashing guru, you!
After a seven-year itch, a first time revisited for Edson Buddle
As for Buddle, Tuesday felt like his debut in 2003 in a friendly for Venezuela in 2003.
“It feels like the first time again,” Buddle said after training with the USA men's national team, “It’s been so long and the first time was so short.”
Sure, Buddle's nine goals got him to camp, but what does it really take to earn your stars and stripes when playing for the Stars and Stripes?
“What I hear is that you have to have your play set before it comes to you,” Buddle said, “And just be more aware. Can’t take too many breaks on the field. Actually, no breaks at all once you’re on the field.
"Hopefully my quick decision-making will make things easier.”
Too bad it didn't amount to much on saturday against TFC. Oh well.
“This opportunity comes once in a lifetime,” he said, “Not everyone gets to have this chance and I realize that. So I was really happy, eyes watering a little bit. But I know there’s more work ahead and that’s a challenge.”
And that challenge is to make the short-list after making an impression at Rentschler and Lincoln Financial Field.